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Your response to Voices on Violence: ‘Is it safe?’

This week, NolaVie is publishing responses to Voices on Violence. The series arose as a response to the Mother’s Day shootings in New Orleans that injured 20 people. Comprised of one-on-one interviews with a diverse group of residents, it explores why and how people live here, how they assess risk, and what specific things they believe can help change the cycle of violence in New Orleans. Please join the conversation; send commentary, responses and interview suggestions to The commentary and film below, “Spruce & Dante,” come from David Zalkind.

Bob Edes stars as a landlord weary of telling tenants his rental is safe in a short film by David Zalkind

Bob Edes stars as a landlord weary of telling tenants his rental is safe in a short film by David Zalkind

After listening to the radio program, Voices on Violence, I thought I would send this short 9-minute narrative fiction film I recently made about the illusion of being safe and secure.

In “Spruce and Dante,” set in New Orleans, a landlord is tired of lying about how safe the neighborhood is when always asked — “Is it safe?” Ranting on his neighbor’s porch about the uncertainty of everyday life, events take a strange turn when the landlord confronts another prospective “tenant.”

This short was filmed on my street in New Orleans. I only had to walk a mere 100 yards from my house for most of the filming. It was a director’s dream.

I was inspired by an Alan Watts book I read years ago, “The Wisdom of Insecurity.” New Orleans has more murders per capita than any other city in America. The question of what street is safe from crime is uppermost in the mind of many newcomers.

The Landlord “wants his life to make sense,” and through the Mysterious Entity character he sees that “there is an eternal order and and an external life behind the uncertain and momentary experience of life-and-death” (quoted phrase is from “The Wisdom of Insecurity”).

Taking a cue from the name of the street, like Dante’s Virgil, the Mysterious Entity is Mr. Al’s guide, urging him to cross the street corner of Spruce & Dante, a real-world River Hades. With an apple in hand, the Landlord travels to the next level, safe from evil spirits.

Filmmaker David Zalkind submitted this film and commentary to NolaVie. Voices on Violence: Conversations about life in New Orleans is a NolaVie/WWNO series that features individual interviews with the city’s residents. If you would like to be interviewed, or to comment on the series, email


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